Singapore’s Farmers: Going High-Tech to Boost Our Food Security
Singapore’s total area measures only 724 square kilometres, but it is already an up-and-coming urban agriculture technology hub. Singapore’s farming sector is embracing sophisticated agriculture technology (agritech) for greater self-sufficiency and food security in the coming years. So, why is enhancing food security a priority for Singapore, and how is our farming sector using technology to drive greater self-sufficiency?
Climate Change and the Need for Improved Food Security
Currently, Singapore grows less than 10% of its food due to limited land and other natural resources. For import-dependent Singapore, the urgency of enhancing food security and self-sufficiency grows as climate change brings more unpredictable weather events like droughts and floods, which means more disruptions to global food supply and food prices.
Apart from climate change, other global crises like pandemics can also expose the city state to more supply-chain shocks and volatile food prices impacting food accessibility for the island nation.
How Technology is Making a Difference
Under the government’s initiatives to increase Singapore’s food security, a new $30 million grant has been launched to ramp up production of local farm produce. This complements the $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund, which was set up in 2014 and enhanced in 2018, to support productivity-enhancing technologies. Vertical farms and closed containment fish farms are some examples of agritech innovations in Singapore, which aim to help local farmers achieve the stated target of providing 30% of Singapore’s nutritional needs by 2030.
1. High-Tech Egg Farms
Eggs are a rich source of protein, and agritech is being used to increase productivity, yield, and the types of eggs produced at the three chicken egg farms in Singapore – Chew’s Agriculture, N&N Agriculture and Seng Choon Farm.
New technologies have enabled the farms to automate their processes – from the feeding of hens, to the collection, grading and packing of eggs. All three farms have embraced the Singapore Quality Egg Scheme, and have adopted quality control monitoring systems to ensure the eggs meet the freshness and quality standards set by Singapore Food Agency.
Automation has raised productivity and increased local egg production significantly. Technology has also facilitated the production of specialty products like nutrient-enriched, pasteurised, and ready-to-eat eggs.
With continued technology adoption, more locally-farmed high-quality eggs and new product offerings will be available to consumers.
2. Closed Containment Fish Farms
Technology is also being used to boost the quantity and quality of fish produced in Singapore. Some coastal fish farms have started using closed containment systems to farm fish in controlled environments to protect the fish from external elements such as rising sea temperature, algae blooms and oil spills, which can wipe out tonnes of fish. In addition, Singapore Aquaculture Technologies’ Smart Floating Fish Farm is also using artificial intelligence (AI) to track the health and growth rates of its fish, while Aquaculture Centre of Excellence’s Eco-Ark is using its patented technology to produce more fish with less energy and cleaner water.
Closed containment systems also allow fish to be farmed indoors in a highly productive, and space-, water- and labour-efficient way. Apollo Aquaculture Group’s vertical land-based fish farm is using a Recirculating Aquaculture System to treat and recycle water to farm fish. It has also automated its processes from feeding to harvesting, and enabled farming conditions to be monitored and controlled remotely.
As technology is increasingly used to optimise resources and create suitable environments for fish farming, these high-tech farms will be able to significantly increase their production of fish for local consumers when their new farms operate at full capacity. Additionally, as the fish in closed containment systems are farmed in contamination-free environments, consumers can be assured that the fish are safe to eat.
3. Vertical Vegetable Farms
Vertical outdoor and indoor vegetable farms are sprouting up in Singapore. These farms use high-tech systems to maximise available physical space and create suitable conditions to grow more food with fewer resources. Vertical outdoor farm, Sky Greens, is using a rotating tier-based system that optimises light absorption and water- and land-use to produce tropical leafy greens. Indoor farms like Sustenir and VertiVegies, on the other hand, are using technological innovations to grow a steady supply of fresh produce in controlled environments, which are not vulnerable to floods, droughts and sun damage.
Apart from increasing yield, agritech is also used in vegetable farms to introduce new varieties of produce that were not previously grown in Singapore and not previously available year-round. These developments give local consumers access to delicious fruits and vegetables – including temperate and seasonal varieties such as strawberries and kale – consistently throughout the year.
By harnessing technology, these innovative farms are giving national food security a boost.
4. Emerging Technologies
Digital agritech like AI and the Internet of Things are enabling farmers around the world to digitalise the agriculture supply chain to achieve greater efficiencies and use data analysis to make more informed decisions. It’s now possible to aggregate data from hundreds or even thousands of farms to establish benchmarks, and give farmers insights on their performance to help them minimise resources and maximise yields for optimal results.
Farmers can also use big data to predict crop performance, and even deploy drones and farm-bots to automate their operations and collect real-time data on their farms for better decision-making.
In addition to optimising yields, technology can also help in reducing food wastage. For example, crop sensors can be used to track the health of crops and ultimately reduce the amount of diseased, unhealthy produce farmers have to throw out. Predictive analytics technology can also enhance supply chain efficiency and reduce food spoilage through improved logistics planning.
As Singapore’s farmers continue to embrace technology to boost our food security, more of these emerging technologies may find their way here in time to come.
A More Self-Sufficient Singapore
With disruptive climate changes on the horizon, Singapore’s farms will play an increasingly important role in supporting our food security, and safeguarding against global food supply disruptions and price shocks.
Many stakeholders along the entire value chain have a part to play to help Singapore realise its goal of becoming a more self-sufficient and sustainable food producer. These include:
- Government authorities who help the industry with funding and supportive regulatory frameworks,
- Solution providers who provide technologies that help farmers achieve higher productivity,
- Farmers who have to continually acquire more knowledge and skills to optimise the resources available to them, and
- Consumers who must increase their demand for local produce to enable our farmers to produce and supply more of our nutritional needs for a more self-sufficient Singapore.
To play your part, make a conscious effort to choose local when shopping for fresh produce. Look for the “SG Fresh Produce” logo or “Country of Origin: Singapore” on the packaging, or simply shop online for Singapore-farmed produce at e-SG Farmers’ Market.